Genealogists rely upon records often created by courts and lawyers for specific legal purposes.
The 19th century estate settlement of Michael Trautvetter in Hancock County, Illinois, is one of those records. One of the heirs of Michael is Wilhelmine Rothweiler. Wilhelmine is listed along with her siblings as follows:
William Hess, Valentine Hess, & Wilhelmina, now wife of ___ Rothweiler, children & only heirs at law of Ernestine Hess before her marriage Ernestine Trautvetter…
Wilhelmina and her husband, George Rothweiler, lived in St. Louis, Missouri, from at least 1851 until their deaths. She and George were married in St. Louis in 1851–and her marriage record indicated her last name at the time of her marriage was Trautvetter. Other records in the St. Louis area indicated Wilhelmina’s maiden name was Trautvetter.
If it had just been the death records of Wilhelmina’s children that listed her maiden name as Trautvetter, I would have “written it off” as confusion on the part of the informant. But the marriage record was more of a problem as Wilhelmina provided that information herself.
Then there is the probate record that seems to imply that Wilhelmina’s maiden name was Hess. After all, that is the last name of two of her siblings and the last name given for her mother.
It’s important to remember that the purpose of the estate settlement of Michael Trautvetter, who died intestate and had no descendants, was to distribute his property to his heirs. In this instance that was the descendants of his siblings. The court needed to determine who the heirs-at-law were for each of Michael’s siblings, including his sister “Ernestine Hess.” The court did not care who the father Ernestine’s children were or whether they even had the same father.
We’ll have an update to what was going on with Ernestine’s heirs in a future post.
It’s always important to remember what a record says.
It’s just as important to remember what a record does not say.